Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
House Democrats have announced a vote could come as early as tomorrow on a “hate crimes” bill that supporters admit might allow federal officials to prosecute Christians who speak out against homosexual behavior.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, or H.R. 1913, passed through committee last week, and according to the Weekly Leader published by the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the bill joins 14 others that could be brought to the floor for a vote sometime between noon tomorrow and the end of the week.
Meanwhile, advocates for the bill are engaged in a strong push to see it passed.
The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – or LGBT – civil rights organization, has designated April 27-29 for a national call-in campaign, urging supporters to contact Congress and pressure the bill’s passage.
“We need more calls to Members of Congress, and we need them right away,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “It has been ten long years and tens of thousands more victims since the Matthew Shepard Act was first introduced in Congress. We are poised for a presidential signature this year, but lies from the radical right could easily derail our efforts.”
A number of groups – including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Council on La Raza, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Association of People with Disabilities, among others – announced formation of a national coalition to urge Congress to pass H.R. 1913.
One of the coalition members, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, announced last week that it has sent letters to all 435 members of the House of Representatives in support of the bill.
Tom Strode of the Baptist Press, however, reports that H.R. 1913 “adds ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to the current classes – including race, religion and national origin – protected from hate crimes,” a measure that worries many people of faiths that deem LGBT sexual behavior as immoral.
When a nearly identical plan was developed in the last Congress, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., admitted during a hearing on the bill it could be used to prosecute pastors merely for preaching against homosexuality under the premise that they could be “inducing” violence in someone.
The bill ultimately failed then because President Bush determined it was unnecessary – the crimes banned in the legislation already are addressed by other laws – and it probably was unconstitutional.
“The federal hate crimes bill is bad news for everyone,” said Brad Dacus of Pacific Justice Institute, who testified in Congress against the bill two years ago.
“Instead of treating all crime victims equally, it creates a caste system where select groups, such as gays and lesbians, are given greater priority in the criminal justice system. This is not progress; it is political correctness. In other nations and states, the adoption of hate crimes legislation has been the first step toward widespread suppression of speech and ideas critical of homosexuality,” he said.
Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel has spoken out against H.R. 1913 a number of times.
“As has proved to be true in both Europe and Canada, this Orwellian piece of legislation is the direct precursor to freedom killing and speech chilling ‘hate speech’ laws. It represents a thinly veiled effort to ultimately silence – under penalty of law – morally, medically and biblically based opposition to the homosexual lifestyle,” he said.
Barber said the 14th Amendment already provides that victims of violent crimes are afforded equal protection under the law “regardless of sexual preference or proclivity.”
“If passed, H.R. 1913 will change all that. It overtly and, most likely, unconstitutionally, discriminates against millions of Americans by granting federally preferred status, time and resources to individuals who define their identity based upon aberrant sexual behaviors (i.e.,’gay’ and lesbian ‘sexual orientation’ or cross-dressing ‘gender identity’),” he said.
He also said there is “zero evidence” suggesting homosexuals do not get equal protection now.
“In fact, you need only look to the most famous ‘hate crime’ of all – Matthew Shepard – for proof. Although the evidence determined that Shepard’s murder was not a ‘hate crime’ by definition (a misconception still widely propagated by the homosexual lobby, the media and liberal lawmakers), the two thugs who committed the crime nonetheless received life in prison – and rightfully so. (Shepard’s murder turned out to be the end result of a robbery for drug money gone from bad to horrible),” he said.
Barber said likewise the murderer of Mary Stachowicz, a devout Catholic grandmother brutally killed by a homosexual for sharing the Bible with him, also was given a life sentence.
“The system worked in both cases and both victims received equal justice under the law apart from any discriminatory ‘hate crimes’ legislation,” he said.
Barber cited FBI statistics showing there were about 1.4 million violent crimes in the U.S. in 2007, but only 1,512 were presumed to be “hate crimes.” And two-thirds of those involved claims of “hateful” words, touching and shoving.
Under the specifications of the law, a Christian needn’t touch a homosexual to face charges, he noted.
“If the homosexual merely claims he was subjectively placed in ‘apprehension of bodily injury’ by the Christian’s words then, again, the Christian can be thrown in prison for a felony ‘hate crime,’” he said.
WND reported previously that the plan was introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who said, “The bill only applies to bias-motivated violent crimes and does not impinge public speech or writing in any way.”
Section 10 of the act states, “Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
However, critics cite United States Code Title 18, Section 2, as evidence of how the legislation could be used against people who merely speak out against homosexuality. It states: Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.
Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, warned Christians to speak up before the legislation passes. He said they are acting like the proverbial frog in a slowly heating kettle that boils to death.
“They need to wake up and take action to oppose this threat to religious liberty.”